Friday, February 27, 2009

Katy Wright-Mead 'graduates' to bigger things

A lot of people move to New York City to pursue their dreams only to return broke and defeated or stay and settle from something they never aspired to be. This is not the case for Katy Wright-Mead, a 2001 graduate of Fryeburg Academy.

Wright-Mead, formerly of Fryeburg, Maine, moved to New York City October 2001 and studied for two years at an acting conservatory. Although she thought her career would start in theater, things have played out a bit differently.

“I’ve mostly found myself doing film because I’ve gotten more responses from films,” said Wright-Mead. “I honestly thought that I’d be starting off in theater but I found myself doing film and that’s where I wanted to end up so I am happy where I am right now.”

Wright-Mead has appeared in short films and was the lead in a feature that was never completed. “The Graduates,” Wright-Mead’s first role in a feature length film, will be available online in its entirety this weekend for a free sneak preview (ending 11:59 p.m. March 1) at www.thegraduatesmovie.com.

“The Graduates” is an indie comedy, and, without the backing of the Hollywood system or a distributor, it can be difficult to get support behind a film, but director Ryan Gielen and his team are giving it a go.

“It was in a handful of festivals and it won awards too, so it did well. It is hard to get comedy into festivals,” said Wright-Mead. “But people really received it well once it got there. It sold out every screening.”

The film has been having sneak preview screenings, but is going to be released nationwide in May.

“It is going to be in cities like Portland, New York, L.A., Chicago, major cities and a lot of the cities the actors are from because you’ve got that built in audience there,” said Wright-Mead.

The film is a teen comedy that follows the formula of so many others before it: a group of friends head down to the beach for one last week of fun before going to college. There’s the typical desperate pursuit to lose virginity.

Ben (Rob Bradford), the lead character, is futilely chasing after the hot girl (Stephanie Lynn) when the best friend (Laurel Reese) is the obvious right choice that he continually turns a blind eye to.

Too often teen movies, especially ones centered on the pursuit of sex, have a glib, smarmy feel and a fixation on gross-out humor. “The Graduates” has a couple low-brow gags, but for the most part it is trying to achieve something more sincere than the average multiplex teen movie.

Gielen is aware of the formulas he is using, but merely uses them as a template in which to slide in some moments of insight. Despite it’s similarity in plot to “American Pie” or “Superbad” the film is closer in spirit to “American Graffiti” or “Dazed and Confused.”

On a story level things are fairly predictable, but there are several moments and lines of dialogue that float up from the party clich├ęs and take you off guard. A scene in which the subject matter of divorce comes up is nicely handled. The scene starts out comedic, but smoothly shifts in tone and nicely balances that line between comedy and drama.

Wright-Mead, who is meeting with HBO for workshopping a play and is producing an industry showcase for actors, has only one scene in “The Graduates,” but it is memorable one and one that shouldn’t be given away. She definitely leaves an impression in her few minutes of screen time.

Like Wright-Mead, this was the first feature for much of cast. The film is populated with solid performances throughout from the small roles, like Wright-Mead’s, to the leads. There’s a realistic chemistry between the five main characters and an unforced quality to the performances.

Watching a film like “The Graduates” reminds you of how much great “undiscovered” talent is truly out there. Unfortunately, sometimes the actors that make it the furthest are the one’s least deserving. On the plus side, “The Graduates” is an excellent calling card for everyone involved.

“It was awesome from beginning to end from the first audition to now trying to promote it," said Wright-Mead. “I am just really excited about the whole thing.”

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